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Transcript: Sen. Mark Warner on "Face the Nation," Sept. 11, 2022

Warner wants damage assessment on Trump docs
Warner wants damage assessment from intel community over Trump documents 08:23

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sen. Mark Warner that aired Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, on "Face the Nation."

MARGARET BRENNAN: For a closer look now at the evolving threats to the homeland, we begin this morning with the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mark Warner of Virginia. Good morning to you, Senator. 

SEN. MARK WARNER: Good morning, Margaret.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, 9/11 introduced to many Americans for the very first time, this sense of vulnerability at home, and it launched the global war on terror. I wonder how vulnerable you think America is now, are we paying enough attention to the Middle East and to Afghanistan?

SEN. WARNER: Well, Margaret, I remember, as most Americans do, where they were on 9/11. I was in the middle of a political campaign and suddenly, the differences with my opponent seem very small in comparison and our country came together. And in many ways, we defeated the terrorists because of the resilience of the American public because of our intelligence community, and we are safer, better prepared. The stunning thing to me is here we are 20 years later, and the attack on the symbol of our democracy was not coming from terrorists, but it came from literally insurgents attacking the Capitol on January 6th. So I believe we are stronger. I believe our intelligence community has performed remarkably. I think the threat of terror has diminished. I think we still have new challenges in terms of nation-state challenges, Russia in longer-term, a technology competition with China. But I do worry about some of the activity in this country where the election deniers, the insurgency that took place on January 6th, that is something I hope we could see that same kind of unity of spirit.

MARGARET BRENNAN: As you're pointing out, America came together after 9/11, and we are incredibly divided right now. One thing that is potentially quite explosive is this ongoing investigation of the justice- by the Justice Department of the former president and his handling of classified information. You've asked for a briefing from the intelligence community. Given how sensitive this is, why should anything be shared with Congress, given that this is an ongoing investigation?

SEN. WARNER: Because as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and I'm very proud of our committee, or the last functioning, bipartisan committee. I believe in- in the whole Congress. The Vice Chairman and I have asked for a briefing of the damages that could have arisen from mishandling of this information, and I believe it's our congressional duty to have that oversight. Remember, what's at stake here is the fact that if some of these documents involve human intelligence, and that information got out, people's- will die--

MARGARET BRENNAN: We don't know that yet.

SEN. WARNER: If there were penetration of signals intelligence, literally years of work could be destroyed. We talk about the enormous advances our intelligence community has made helping our Ukrainian friends, that comes about because we share intelligence. If there's intelligence that has been shared with us by allies, and that is mishandled, all of that could be in jeopardy. Now, we don't know what's in those documents. But I think it is incumbent, as soon as we get approval, let me be clear, soon as we get approval, my understanding is there is some question because of the Special Master appointment by the judge in- in Florida, whether they can brief at this point, we need clarification on that from that judge as quickly as possible, because it is essential that the intelligence committee leadership at least gets a briefing of the damage assessment.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The damage assessment, it has been paused, as has the classification review, and it will take some time. So, A, I am assuming in your answer there, you're saying there have been no promises of a briefing to be scheduled. Is that right? 

SEN. WARNER: I believe we will get a briefing as soon as there is clarification whether this can be performed or not--

MARGARET BRENNAN: But why should that--

SEN. WARNER: In light of the- of the judge in Florida.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Why should that happen? Because I- I want to get to something you said which was the 'last bipartisan committee,' you and Marco Rubio, your partner in- in this request for a briefing put forth this letter, asking for the damage assessment. But lately, your colleague's been making some comments that don't sound quite as bipartisan. He's compared the Justice Department to corrupt regimes in Latin America when it comes to this investigation. He's accused DOJ of leaking sensitive details, and he said the only reason to leak it is to create a narrative for political purpose. When information gets shared with Congress, as you know, the accusation is it will get leaked. So, A, it looks like you're losing that bipartisan- bipartisanship. And B, if you brief Congress, isn't it going to leak further and worse than--

SEN. WARNER: The record of our intelligence committee of keeping secrets secret, that's why the Intelligence Committee shares information with us. Remember this was the committee, bipartisan, that did the Russia investigation.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Because you know that your oversight capability, many would argue, including former heads of counterintelligence, FBI, that the line is drawn when it's an active investigation. They don't owe you a briefing.

SEN. WARNER: We- we don't- I do not want any kind of insight into an active investigation by the Justice Department. I do want the damage assessment of what would happen to our ability to protect the nation. And here we are 21 years after 9/11, if classified secrets, top secret secrets are somehow mishandled, I pointed out earlier, people could die, sources of intelligence could disappear. The willingness of our allies to share intelligence could be undermined. And I think we need that assessment to make sure if on-- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Which you will get--

SEN. WARNER: I think we need it sooner rather than later.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But to that point, because it's so sensitive, because the country is so divided, because you already have in many ways a target being put on the back of law enforcement, isn't it more important to get it right, to be deliberate and not to be fast here? I want the details just as much as you do.

SEN. WARNER: I do not think we should have as- as the Intelligence Committee, a briefing on the ongoing investigation. What our responsibility is, is to assess whether there has been damage done to our intelligence collection and maintenance of secrets capacity. That is a damage assessment, that frankly, even the judge in Florida has said, can continue.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Before November?

SEN. WARNER: This- once we get clarification from the judge in Florida, and again, I don't think we can cherry pick what part of the legal system we like or dislike, I have trust in our legal system. I may not agree with the decision of the judge in Florida, but I respect our Department of Justice. I respect the FBI. I think they are trying under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to get it right and we owe them the benefit of the doubt.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Senator, thank you for coming on. And I know we're going to continue to track this, and any potential impact to national security.

SEN. WARNER: Thank you, Margaret.

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